Two years ago, Malcolm Dixon, the founder of Project Uth 360, had an idea to hold a summer basketball camp to engage and benefit Stokes County youth. In its inaugural year, the camp drew roughly 20 young people and two instructors. Last week, the third annual Project Uth 360 summer basketball camp drew more than 100 Stokes County young people to London Elementary School. The camp’s participants were taught the fundamentals of the game by 10 instructors and 10 camp volunteers.
Dixon said he wasn’t the least bit surprised by the camp’s strong turnout this year. He explained how the basketball camp is merely one facet in Project Uth 360’s overall mission of building social capital.
“We’re concentrated on three different parts, which is service, education and recreation with the emphasis being on education,” Dixon said. “This basketball camp was just a small component of what our big picture looks like. We provide opportunities for kids to do different activities that [are] going to empower them and give them a picture of what the world looks like outside of Stokes County…We’re trying to give them a worldly view.”
To expand the horizons of Stokes County youth, Dixon and his organization are planning to work with the local school system on a number of initiatives to give local children the tools they need to be successful.
Project Uth 360 will give between 20 to 30 backpacks filled with school supplies to Walnut Cove Elementary, Pine Hall Elementary, Southeastern Middle School, Germanton Elementary, and London Elementary over the next two weeks. Dixon said he is currently speaking with the principals of those schools to gain permission to speak with parents during the first open house of the upcoming school year.
“We’re going to give out our information and tell people that we exist and we’re here to stay,” Dixon said. “We’re here to help them. We want to figure out what the [parents] need, what the kids need, what the schools need, and be a catalyst in getting all those things for them.
Project Uth 360 is currently collaborating with Walnut Ridge Assisted Living on a service project. Dixon said his organization is dedicated to ensuring a brighter future for all Stokes residents by investing in young people while serving the community at large.
“We want to give kids direction,” he said. “A lot of kids want all these good things to happen for them but they don’t know what they need to do to get there. We want to collaborate with the schools and the teachers. We want to be able to provide tutors not to give homework help but to teach critical thinking skills.”
Unfortunately, many young people in Stokes don’t have Internet access at home or other critical resources at hand. That’s where Project Uth 360 hopes to step in to fill the void.
“Most kids in my neighborhood, they go to the library for [Internet access],” Dixon said. “But we need a place that’s larger and we need to provide kids a way to get there. We want to get some grant money in so we can provide transportation to different activities. We want to rent a building in Walnut Cove that has computers and resources, and people that know how to direct kids.”
“Kids need a place to go where they can meet other people, where they can participate in different activities; they just need opportunities,” Dixon continued.
Project Uth 360 is currently planning a number of fundraisers and is applying to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit. In the long range view, it makes sound economic sense for community leaders in Walnut Cove to invest in its young people, Dixon said.
“We’d like to give these kids opportunities to get educated, and hopefully, create jobs so that when they do get educated, they could either stay here, have a job here or come back here and help out,” he said. “We want them to help build up the community because it’s a good place, so education is the key — that’s a huge investment we need to [make].”